Music Reviews

YobKiss: The Light

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
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Aug 08 2015
Artist: YobKiss (@)
Title: The Light
Format: 12"
Label: Grond Records (@)
Rated: *****
This is a relatively easy review for me, and a rather enjoyable one too. YobKiss is a music project by Paul Borchers, originally from the Netherlands, now based in London. Paul is an illustrator and musician (as well as a DJ). His illustrating style is along the lines of vintage comics and it's said that he's working on a graphic novel too. There's more back-story to his visual art, but we're primarily concerned with the music here, so I'll leave you to check that out on your own time. Musically, Paul started out as a drummer, but was inspired to get involved with synthesizers. Borchers started the YobKiss project in 2006 as an excuse to tour Japan as a solo act. The other party on this EP, vocalist Yuko Hazama aka Fuzzy, from Tokyo, didn't join Paul until 2013 and the collaboration was a long distance one trading tracks online. The result was this EP, 'The Light', only three tracks, but what an amazing little work it turned out to be!

YobKiss describes their style as Electro, Gothic Disco, Synth Rock, Acid House, and Kraut Rock, but what we really have here is a Cold Wave gem- minimal vintage synths and drum machine, with Yuko's whispery vocals. It's simple, but incredibly effective. Title track "The Light" consists of a repetitive synth line over which an echoed blippy, arpeggio plays, and a dense synth pad (reminiscent of early Tangerine Dream) creates a nostalgic aural atmosphere. Then there's Yuko's singing- wispy with childlike innocence, yet strangely sensual. Although the words aren't clear, the ambience leaves little doubt she was an amazing find. There is simple but effective (yet uneffected) guitar too adding an interesting component. The beat is steady, danceable and hypnotic with unwavering drum machine rhythm. The song is sort of dark, but in a dream-like surreal way. Vocally, Yuko is a little reminiscent of Martha Schwendener from Bowery Electric (I wonder what she's doing now) except a little higher. Second track, "Dancing Ghost" gets into even weirder territory with Yuko using her voice rhythmically at first then interjecting a phrase here and there. The synthwork consists of an ominous repeating bass line over the rhythm track with a beat and the occasional synth pad and other stray electronic burblings. Yuko comes up with an ironically happy little melody line she repeats a few times and the effect is...uncanny to say the least. Before you know it, it's over. "Black Void" is undoubtedly the darkest (as well as longest) track on the EP, using a gothy chord progression over sequenced bass and bare bones beat. While Yuko's voice is nearly buried in the mix, it is as if she is some ghost in the machine. The mode of the music changes a little getting deeper and darker, but no less hypnotic drawing you in. This is bloody simple stuff, but oddly compelling. Yuko resurfaces at the end with breathy wordless vocals. Sort of like an orgasm in the black light room of a psychedelic party scene in some art film; no words can easily the atmosphere created here. It leaves you wanting more, and I certainly hope this is only the beginning of this collaboration. Worth checking out and worth owning. I had to settle for the CD version of 'The Light', but you can get it on 12" vinyl while the limited supply (of 500 copies...less now I'm sure) lasts. Highly recommended!

Storm: Storm's A Brewin'

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
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Aug 06 2015
Artist: Storm (@)
Title: Storm's A Brewin'
Format: CD
Label: self-released
Rated: *****
Since Mr. Urselli (busy guy that he is) is now encouraging artists to send their review product directly to reviewers to expedite reviews instead of to Chain D. L. K. central, this band was one of the first to do so. Since I was curious who chose little ole me to review their album, I pushed this one to the front. From Kahaluu, Hawaii comes Storm, a goth metal band and their debut album, 'Storm's A Brewin'. Gee, I didn't know Hawaii had a goth scene, but stranger things have happened. The band consists of Sandy "Storm" Essman - lead vocals; Gerard K. Gonsalves - drums; Darren Soliven - bass; Jase LeFebvre - guitar; and Eric Barker - keyboards. The first thing that hits you are Sandy's powerhouse vocals- quite melodic and seductive, yet strong. No rust on those pipes! (From what I've seen of the band's live performance videos, Sandy has the looks and presence to back up her big voice too.) Opening track "Serpentine" offers an exotic Middle Eastern intro before it stokes the furnace of this juggernaut. It's a potent opening track exhibiting musical elements you wouldn't expect on a debut album. Third track, "Fly" is a progressive number that caught me by surprise showing off the group's musicianship with intricate riffs, timing and Sandy's soaring multi-tracked harmonies. "Operator" is not a bad followup as the band attacks the material with a wicked vengeance. When Storm settles into their groove, I'm somewhat reminded of vintage Black Sabbath, in the pacing if nothing else. (And no, Sandy doesn't sound anything like Ozzy.) Most of the album is pretty enjoyable but "Dirty Bitch" is a misbegotten number just beggin' for a catfight. Maybe a band "in joke" or Sandy just showing her claws, but I couldn't help but snort, although musically it did rock out with psychotic, frenetic energy. Altogether the vocals are top notch (she can really wail...without screaming), the musicianship quite good, and decent songwriting for the most part...but there is a problem. On this CD the vocals are mixed up above the music giving the impression the singer is right in front of you, and the band is playing in another room. While this might have helped a band with a less powerful vocalist, Sandy blows the doors off on this recording. The mix also has the effect of muddling some of the musical passages and making the cymbals sound slishy. I listened to the CD on several different systems with similar results on all but one - my bookstore's cheapo antiquated Sony system, which didn't sound too bad. Overall, there is a lot of promise from this Hawaiian Goth Metal outfit, and whether they make it beyond their tropical shores or not is up to them, and the fans they will likely amass with their dynamic, compelling sound.

Dasha Rush: Sleepstep - Sonar Poems for my Sleepless Friends

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
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Aug 01 2015
Artist: Dasha Rush
Title: Sleepstep - Sonar Poems for my Sleepless Friends
Format: CD
Label: Raster-Noton (@)
Rated: *****
Raster-Noton keeps on pushing its stylistical horizon over explored edges by means of the artistical pulls of the charming sound of Dasha Rush, another fascinating amazon, which follows the landing of another brilliant female sound artist - Kyoka - on the label wisely managed by Carsten Nicolai and Olaf Bender. Mainly known for her praiseworthy sets and release in the field of techno, Dasha shows a darker and mysteriously alienated side on "Sleepstep", whose subtitle "Sonar Poems For My Sleepless Friends" underpins the different perspective behind this nocturnal outputs. Some attentive listeners would find some similaraties to other artists' stuff: for instance the lulling "Sleep Ballade" sounds like Trentemoller's "Miss You", the gothic lyricism of "Sail Away to Her" could remind some stuff by Socialistisches Patienten Kollektiv or Dead Can Dance as well as the ominous breaks of the awesome "Abandoned Beauties and Beasts", the debris on the the digital ether of the opening "Space Privet For Cosmonauts", the amazing alien clocking of "100 Hearts", where irregular plastic heart beats seem to act like gears of a mysterious engine, or the darkwave nuance of "Fog, Dogma and Bread" could lay in between the absorbing frequencies of some ambient outputs of late 90ies (Omicron, Lagowski's SETI) and the likewise absorbing outputs by other brilliant squires of the label such as Frank Bretschneider and Emptyset. Besides any possible analogies, Dasha's debut on Raster-Noton sounds homogeneneous and in line with the nocturnal dream-like atmosphere that she often tries to emphasize by means of subtle electronic airflows and catchy readings from her own poems (included in the 32-pages booklet on the cd version of the release, which includes some snapshots by Dasha as well) such as the one in French language on "Scratching Your Surface", which features a magnetic dark dub sneaking movement, the almost hypnotical one in English language of "Lucy In The Sky, Lost Diamonds" or the daydreaming surrealism of "Life Time Poem" and "Micro Universe", which could fit the palingenesis of an intimate dreamscape. You don't need to suffer from insomnia to appreciate Dasha's enchanting sonic pills, which act like other than downers.

Of Earth And Sun: Uncoiled

 Posted by Pierre Parenteau   Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
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Jul 23 2015
Artist: Of Earth And Sun (@)
Title: Uncoiled
Format: CDS (CD Single)
Label: Malignant Records (@)
Rated: *****
There's something inherently creepy about Of Earth And Sun's music. The sound of the bone trumpets offered on most of the tracks are spooky to say the least! They are the main ingredient of Matthew Hunzeker's music (the guy behind this project) as you can hear them buzzing throughout all the tracks of Uncoiled. Of Earth And Sun's artistic expression is a cross between well recorded harsh noise (and I stress on 'well recorded'), dark drone and ritualistic music. All the tracks on the album have been recorded live, which is an accomplishment in itself, especially when you consider all the computer based music that is released nowadays. Maintaining that kind of intensity throughout the nine tracks is impressive, it gives a sens of authenticity to a kind of music that can easily sound generic when produced on computers. Furthermore, the use of acoustic elements really ads texture and depth to the album. Also at play here are oscillators, vocals and a drum machine. While I can clearly distinguish the vocals in the music, the oscillators play a much more subtle role as it seems to be used to reinforced the buzzing tone of the bones trumpets by adding a much needed sub bass to the tracks (as heard on 'Antahkarana' and 'Consuming Of The Illusory Body'). On other pieces, the oscillators are used in both the low and high frequency range as it is the case in the sublime 'Veil Of Illumination' track. Of Earth And Sun's music could easily be the soundtrack of an horror film featuring cannibal rites. This is deep music that will certainly please drone fans as well as anyone interested in hearing something different and well constructed. If I had one complaint to do, is the similarity between the tracks, which makes a very coherent album but at the same time it lacks a bit of variety. That being said, I think it wasn't the point, the idea here was to create a chilling and intense sonic experience, something that transcend the body to bring you to another place and another state of mind. From this point of view, Of Earth And Sun's Uncoiled is an outstanding success. I can easily picture myself listening to this music while reading 19th century occult books about ghosts and witchcraft. Highly recommend!

Braindance: Master of Disguise

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
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Jul 20 2015
Artist: Braindance (@)
Title: Master of Disguise
Format: CD
Label: Progressive Darkwave Recordings (@)
Rated: *****
Braindance (not to be confused with the Brit streetpunk band of the same name from the 90's) is a progressive darkwave act from new York City. They've been around since 1992, and 'Master of Disguise' is their fourth release. Really?? How come I've never heard of these people before? Am I that hermitized? Checking out a little of their past discography, I found them to be a competent goth-metal band with not quite remarkable material...until now. This is their first new release in over ten years, and they've honed their skills and refined their packaging into something very noteworthy over a decade later. Braindance is essentially Sebastian Elliott - Lead Vocals and Vora Vor - Guitar, Backing Vocals, Keyboards, Programming. On 'Master of Disguise' they are aided and abetted by Beca Schack and Natalia Eth - backing vocals; Andrew Bunk - 5 & 6 string basses; Stygmie Von
Skunk-A-Loohvff (Kenny Grohowski) - percussion, and Tony Geballe - guitar, saz, and additional programming. (The latter formerly of the Trey Gunn Band and Robert Fripp's League of Crafty Guitarists.)

Before we get to the music, I have to address the packaging. The CD cover features magic word squares comprised of mystic symbols courtesy of Sebastian Elliott on the outside of this six-panel digipak. One ten-panel insert inside gives you the track listing, album credits, lyrics, and photos of Sebastian and Vora. Yikes! Sebastian has the physique and attitude of an up-and-coming WWE superstar, and Vora looks vaguely similar to a dominatrix I encountered at a party at the (ill-fated and now defunct) Nutcracker Suite in NYC. Well, if
you're gonna play the game you might as well have the looks, and for this kind of thing it certainly doesn't hurt. The second insert is a 16-page booklet mini graphic novel that outlines the concept of the album. I can sum it up in two words - "identity crisis". My copy also came with a thumb drive in the shape of a gold key giving me access to more band promotional material.

Now on to the music, because that's what it's all about, eh? The opener, "Unearthed" is a brief mechanoid ambient track setting the mood. From there, you are launched into "Lost" which sets the tone for the entire album. The sound production is slick and stellar. Elliott's powerful Pete Steele-ish baritone vocals made me sit up and take notice quickly. Appropriately themed dialogue samples fill in some gaps, and Vora's blazing guitar holds its own with many metal giants I've heard over the years. Everything here is just so damn good I'm having a hard time believing my ears! (SIDE NOTE: The video for this song, produced by Tony Hanson, is astonishing for an unsigned band. Part heavy metal fantasy, part Stargate, part mystic mayhem, and pretty darn expensive looking. If MTV was still doing music videos instead of the crap they morphed into, I swear this would be at the top of the heap.) From "Lost" the listener is quickly thrown into "The Eye of the Storm". Both of these tracks have decent hooks, but I'm detecting there is something lacking. That's made clearer on the next track, "The Game". There's a lot of good melody but I'm not being grabbed by anything truly
memorable. It's good, it's polished, but where is that je ne sais quoi that this band really needs to jettison themselves into the stratosphere? Oh well, maybe later. "Hunter and Hunted" is a sample-laden atmospheric piece with a quick-paced semi-tribal beat. Nice change of pace, but where are we going here? I'm beginning to feel like I'm stuck in a Marvel movie soundtrack."Dysphoria" pulls out all the stops in sampleville. This is a potpourri of dialogue samples culled from tons of movies you've seen centered the theme of identity. It's 2.5 minutes and would likely have cost mucho dinero to clear, but my guess is that it never was. (This could prove problematic to the band if they achieve the measure of success from 'Master of Disguise' that I'm sure they're hoping to.) Title track 'Master of Disguise' is
another neat melodic metal song lacking only a dynamite hook. "More Than a Moment" is a nifty, relentless burner that threatens to break the mold...almost. Still, a dynamite track. Changing pace, things slow down a bit for "The Silence", and once again, we have a very good
melodic metal song. I'm getting very Type-O Neg vibes from this one. "Dystopia" is similar to "Dysphoria" in its plethora of dialogue samples. This is getting a bit old by now, but I can see why this album took ten years to make...half that time must have been spent gathering and compiling samples. "Written in Stone" is an instrumental with yet more samples. Tracks 12, 13 and 14 are three chapters of "Valley of the Kings", and a strong ancient Egyptian component explored here. Past lives? Present dilemma? Future demagoguery? Who knows. Here Sebastian seems to be striving for meaning, spiritual enlightenment, wisdom
of the ages, etc., etc. Final track, "Entombed" is an elongated, atmospheric grandiose instrumental ending with the falling rain. Epic journey finally concluded.

So, what is the meaning of it all anywho? That's for you to decide. 'Master of Disguise' is an interesting 77 minute excursion not without its fantastic and bombastic moments. Elliott's confident and formidable vocals are a force to be reckoned with. Vora Vor and company are superb. Yet, there is the problem of too many samples and not enough big hooks. Concept albums can be tricky, and Braindance came very close to pushing this one over the edge, but unfortunately no (five star) cigar. Still, I'm not writing this off. It has too much going for it, and I'm guessing that when they get around to taking this live, it will
be a show you won't soon forget.

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